Monday, 17 December 2012

Slip Sliding

The thing is, this year has been really very strange. I feel like nothing has gone to plan and this is very difficult for me. One of my friends jokes that I am very resistant to changes in plans, and she can see on my face that it upsets me. I guess its true (also my face is very transparent like that - don't ever make me play poker!), though I have gotten much better about it. Perhaps too much better.... 

One of the things that has been bothering me is my work schedule. I am completely unable to get into a proper flow of work. I blame a lot of things and lots of people for this. Of course, knowing that it was up to me to set expectations about when people can meet me, up front, at t=0, and I didn't. I have barely stayed with my neck above the water for my class. And I this whole semester. Super annoying.

My mum's voice is constantly in my head. I mean, especially when I screw up, but otherwise as well. She gets real worried about me when I don't call her for days, little knowing that I am having all these conversations with her anyhow so I am all set. She just needs to learn to tune in to this frequency? (Yes, I said that. But so did Rushdie, so there).

Anyway the voice mum tells me I :
* Am trying to be Jack of all trades => Master of none
* Have bitten off more than I can chew 
* Have low stamina, low immunity 
* Have a delicate stomach
* Need to learn to relax and take it easy once in a while
* Am short tempered

It is really irritating because its so critical of me. But I know it means well. So I analyse it constantly and try to see which one of those things is my current problem. The thing with immunity is that it is what you believe it is, so I am really trying to get that out of my head (so STOP IT MOM!). The rest are true - except that I don't think I am that short with my temper any more; and of course I have plenty stamina (except for shopping. yuck). 

I woke up this morning feeling quite happy - despite the Monday-ness of the day. I made my Evernote task list and zipped over to my office. Everything went South after that. I couldn't complete a single task on the list successfully or satisfactorily. Phone call - sucked; Formal meetings  - so-so; Informal meetings - cut short; Overall efficiency - virtually nil. 

I rushed back home, picked up some food and a dress and rushed to school. The child was late. I bundled her in, harassed her into eating the chapati, and rushed to the music class (changing out of uniform in car). We got in a tiff about the dress. When she went up to sing, I rushed back home to bring her chappals; and some milk. And a chocolate. I might have felt a bit guilty about my role in the tiff, guilt I couldn't explain away to myself.

She was late returning from the music class - looking absurd in her dress and the school white shoes. I bundled her in again, apologised for my role in the tiff, felt very bad about it for about a second. The next second she was shouting about how much she hates Plum Cake (which I had brought in addition to above) and I didn't feel as bad. We drove to the concert. Which had already begun. 

All the seats in my ticket class were full. We went to the plastic chairs and sat down. Sanjay Subramaniam was in full flow and super awesome. I breathed a sigh of relief and tried to forget everything. Especially the really stiff neck I seem to have acquired. I had about half an hour of enjoyment, mingled with tiredness. 

She started fussing soon after. First she had to use the loo. Which was fine. Then she was bored. Which was not ok. My mobile died promptly, making me worried about all those things all over again. My various responsibilities - all those tasks I didn't manage to do through the day. The fussing increased. We got into a couple of minor skirmishes at this juncture. I yelled a bit into her ear, banshee like. 

When the Thani started, I reluctantly got up and walked out. In a huff, but still holding that monkey's hand as we hit the main road. We got in the car and I delivered my patented lecture about behavior and so forth. I hardly had an appetite for dinner but we somehow managed to shove it down the gullet and now, shortly, after I get Aunt and Uncle who are visiting me, to have their dinner, I will put an end to this miserable day and go sleep... 

Friday, 14 December 2012

In which I resurface

In December, I really try very hard to slow down and think about things. Of course, also train for the Mumbai Marathon, and go through whatever evaluations need to be gone through for work. Some years, I end up traveling - at least in the early part of the month - and sometimes that works out well and sometimes it doesn't.

This time, December crept up on me, I didn't even realise it. I was so completely engulfed by the Wipro Chennai marathon. And then I woke up and saw that my grades submission date was on my head. I barely managed to finish that before I had to go to away to Pan IIT. I guess on the heads of a reasonably intense semester, it was a bit much.

My body shut down. I woke up on Monday with the intention of a Core workout. But I just couldn't. Twenty four hours in which I scared the family by barely waking to eat a couple of mouthfuls of curd rice (I slept through a power cut). A couple of very low energy days spent subsisting on curd rice and battling that ever present headache. And finally I feel like myself again now.

The core workout this morning was less intense than I intended - as usual I ran out of time. I have a last pile of books that I am working through - using bookcollectorz to catalogue (that has been a fun experience - despite the frustrations possibly due to my iffy wireless). I have a few evaluations and a paper to read. And a bunch of grocery shopping to attend to.

Not a big deal of a day up ahead - except later tonight when my aunt and uncle arrive. I didn't go drop the child off at school today since husband person had a meeting that side of town. The house feels very quiet after they left. Kitchen knives I hear in the background. A broom being ineffectively used on the floor. A bucket dragged around. No words.

The best thing of all is that I know that right below where I am sitting (at the dining table - my favourite spot in the house). Directly below. I have wall-lined shelves filled (to the brim, almost) with my precious books. All sorted out. Women authors sit together. Rushdie, Ghosh and Naipaul hang in the other corner. Well thumbed Wodehouses are there. Ah the words accumulated there.

What else does a girl need? 

Monday, 10 December 2012

My Super Painful Trip (So Glad To Be Back)

I don't know. I didn't think it would be so bad. I go away all the time all over the place, right? I am not too fussed about stuff. I love traveling. I don't even mind flights so much. I fit neatly into the seats, can fall asleep usually fairly happily, and as long as there is veggie food or some sort, and I can run for a bit, I don't need much else.

Kolkata, is where I went - I was looking forward to it. I have some pleasant memories of the place from the early 90s which was when I went last. Pleasant in a vague kind of way. We were there in Kharagpur for the InterIIT. I rocked the tournament despite being a complete light weight (literal) and the baby of the team and was really really exhausted on our train trip to Cal.

I fell asleep in the movie. ("Twins" which I have watched several times afterwards and stayed sort-of awake). We were in a large group but a few of us broke away for the movie. I don't remember much else from the trip.

I wanted to run somewhere there. Walk around in all those places one reads about in Vikram Seth or similar. Enjoy the famed Coffee/Conversation thing. But of course I had to do that thing I was sent there for. And I hadn't figured out where I was going to stay, how I was going to get there, how far everything was from everything else, etc., assuming it would all be fine and sorted out.

On hindsight, it was my fault. I should have figured this stuff out, made proper plans. It took forever to get from everywhere to everywhere, I spent a lot of time waiting for others and then for the transport to show up, things were unclear to everybody, the driver got lost, food sucked, and the promised wireless from airtel was a big joke, and I was completely exhausted by the end of the day.

I was supposed to meet Dipali. As the day unfolded, that looked impossible. I had to attend sessions till 8pm or something and we all know I don't function for much beyond that. I promised to call her. When I travel abroad even, I obsessively buy calling cards or that Matrix sim. Because I HAVE TO TALK TO PEOPLE. Like, top of the list, my baby child.

My phone chose this opportune moment to start dying on me. I had forgotten the charger. I borrowed someone's charger. Its a nokia, for heaven's sake. Everyone and their dog has a nokia charger. My phone rejected the someone's charger. And started accusing me "Battery Low" it kept saying. I was sitting in our exhibition booth for a bit, and the ambient noise was of all sorts and not very high but well.

My head chose that moment to acquire one of those headaches that are so frequent now that even my husband (who is well trained in ignoring mild maladies; and me in general) is getting concerned about them. Right side of head, I hate you. I have stopped eating a painkiller for this thing now, because it doesn't work and in fact makes me feel worse.

I returned on Saturday night and thankfully was able to send one message to my husband who kindly picked me in the airport - I was miserable enough to not want to deal with taxi lines. I was very happy to return back home to the questionable comfort of my upside down home. I ran yesterday morning, a nice long run which made me happy, and momentarily rid me of the headache.

But this morning the memory of my trip is back. I had a neck crick even when I boarded the onward flight and sitting around in various places and riding in the back of a decrepit van did not help much. My stomach has rebelled against the various injustices done to it (sandwich on the flight; weird Chinese food at the conference; weird bread-jam at the Guest House; etc.).

I have retired hurt now. Hope to back on track in a day...or two.. And Kolkata - I owe you a proper visit now. With a clear plan and directions and a list. This time I will bring the child, and a phone charger, and my own damn internet.

(PS: Bodily discomforts and ailments notwithstanding, I went running in a park near my guest house on Saturday. I couldn't sleep after 5:30am or so because of all the cars that seemed to be passing by my window and particularly honking in my ear, and the headache was a few hours away anyhow. It was awesome to see half of the dusty park given to footballers and the other half to cricketers. But it was annoying that people wouldn't follow the unwritten rule about walking in anti-clockwise direction and I had to keep running into them.)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Reflecting Back

I am at a loose end. The semester is done and dusted. I finished correcting my final exam papers today and will upload the grades tomorrow. The marathon is done with. I have a couple of loose ends to tie up in the campus, but otherwise its well and truly behind us. We were working for a while on a couple of abstracts for an upcoming conference and they are submitted (and accepted! yeah!) as well.

So now I am in that time of the year - no particularly insane deadlines. I am reviewing a few papers tomorrow - they are due back end of day - but its not very stressful I don't think. I have no classes to prepare for in the immediate future. I don't even have a race coming up in the near future to train for. Of course there is Mumbai - its about 40 days away now - but I am not worrying as much about it as last year... yet...

I love and hate this time. I love it because it gives me the freedom and time to think about things. To make plans for the future. Oh yes, I make lots and lots of plans. Constantly bombarding my own brain with ideas. So what if many of them come to nothing. I hate it because I miss the structure, the pressure, the insanity of my usual life.

I think I made the best of it today. Legs and back routine. Made the child's lunch dabba. Graded papers in a frenzy. Had a couple of meetings in my office, and caught up with my friend Basa for a quick lunch. Returned home and had the pest control guys do a full thorough sweep of the house including the basement with the cricket infestation. Emails. Catalogued the home library a little bit. Cooked dinner.

There are a number of other things I could have done. Things on my list for a while now - but its fine. I can do them tomorrow. And then on Friday off I go to Kolkatta for a couple of days. I expect that next week - especially if I tie up 2-3 things tomorrow - will be super awesome. I hope that I will have that quiet time to read/write that has been elusive all semester long. Heck, all year long.

Its December. Time for music, resolutions, good weather, and catching up with friends. This blog should also see more love from me this month. After all, its the birth month for the blog formerly known as musings from mumbai. A cause for celebration, for sure. 

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2012

There are a million photos on FB already, but I am lazy - so I picked this one. Here is most of us all relieved, exhausted, deflated, a few seconds after the last awesome Full Marathoner coasted in past the finish line.

I barely slept last night. There was confusion. Excitement. Gnawing worry. I kept making mental lists. I woke up once to put up a list on Evernote. Volini Spray featured prominently in my list and was to later create enough trouble and frantic phone calls to indicate that there is a lesson to be learnt there.

Child and husband woke up fairly promptly (though it was 3:15 am) as I rushed around waking them, pulling on my jeans, finding my amphipod (which I found) and looking for a bandana (which didn't surface). The calls started by 3:45 am and prodded us out of home in due course...

Everything is a haze after that. The next thing I know is that we were saying CHEEEESE above (and Krishna was behaving like Rajnikanth and changing his clothes for every camera shot). I ran out of energy at two time instants - I remember that - once I just stood frozen somewhere for 30 seconds and another time I was sitting down and zoned out.

The best moment of the day was a quiet one for me. I had pictured this and imagined I would be noisy. Screaming, cheering, shouting, clapping... When I saw him turn the corner, things went real quiet inside me. I ran the last few meters of the race with my super awesome strong half marathoner husband and, still without a word, ensured that he received his medal from our little spawn in her too-big volunteer tshirt... 2:12. Am too proud for words.

When the child & I stood near the start mats and saw the full marathon flag off ON THE DOT at 5 am, tears welled up in my eyes. There was no time to analyse my emotions as I wanted to take a snap of the 5:15 (SHARP!) flag off of the HM. But I haven't forgotten that moment, the second best one of the day, and featuring Ram, inspiration to all of Chennai (and beyond).

Rocket & I shared a few minutes of that unique mix of joy and sadness for our country, for our women, as we talked about the little lady who won the Full Marathon in some un-imaginable time. She came from nowhere I knew, touched her brother's feet when she finished her race, and offered her thanks to Goddess Earth (as I understood).

My gender made me proud today. I can only imagine the battles they fought to get themselves out there; to finish strong; to smile. My friends came from Bangalore - two of my dear friends from my college days. They ran past the hostel we all, long years ago, shared so many good times in. I met two other women from outside Chennai - their faces familiar to me from facebook. My own campus friends - students and colleagues alike - were there in numbers. Of course, the Chennai Runners, the Dream Runners, and most of all Rocket with her spectacular second place finish....

[Not to mention my little baby daughter, who woke up so ridiculously early this morning; walked everywhere holding my hand;  hung medals on hundreds of sweaty necks; and ate nothing - and more pertinently, did not read anything - till nearly 8 am when her father rescued her from me]

I am thankful, grateful, overwhelmed, sad, happy, and immensely emotional. My physical body is battered. My lower back is spasming, my period (always impeccable timing that one) driving me insane, I am not even thinking about my right foot. My mind is a whirl of memories, snapshots, thoughts. Overall, all I want to now is run for a long while and sort everything out the only way I know how to. But perhaps some sleep might first be in order...

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Jaldi Five

I feel like I invented this "Jaldi Five" though I have seen others use it recently (including my husband, further reinforcing my belief that I am responsible for it). And no, it has nothing to do with Bingo or Housie or whatever that awful thing is (I hate it, not the least because I am super unlucky at the game).

It was last year, as I was training for the Mumbai Marathon, my first full marathon. Super nervous. The boys kept telling me it was going to be okay. But I didn't (don't) believe them. They all think I am some sort of monster who is capable of anything. Or maybe they just are having fun at my expense.

My agenda was fairly simple. I read all the online training plans (the free ones, of course) and had my long run strategy clarified neatly. I originally wanted, ambitiously, to follow an intermediate training plan from Higdon, but after I found that any speed work immediately resulted in knee pain, I down-graded myself to the beginner one.

I ran 10-12 kms couple days a week; and a long run in the weekend. I was so nervous about not being able to do the long runs (and consequently the marathon), that I usually ended up doing the long runs on Saturdays - get it out of the way. But this was also the day we had our IIT training sessions. So I ran from home to there and impatiently waited for people to assemble, then I ran with them and so on.

It was terrible to do this the first few times, and I quickly learnt that this wasn't working. Then I begged friends to long run with me and KP, Ramesh and others joined me, and on Sundays we did legitimate long runs, where in we just concentrated on that. I took walk breaks, I run:walked, I worked hard on the mental game, and we ran 30km in the Shahid Ultra to Mahabalipuram.

That was it in terms of the longer runs. On Wednesdays, I gave myself a nice treat. On the cards was a simple 5km run. I allowed myself to run to AU and back or to Boat Club and back. I concentrated on moving my feet a bit faster, and while I did not do a great job overall (including in my long runs) in maintaining a steady pace, in my 5k runs I did consistently hit 27 mins.

I recall on the day of Deepavali, which happened to be a Wednesday last year, I woke up and was glad to see everyone at home still asleep. I figured no one would miss me if I returned back home jaldi jaldi. So I took off amidst the crackle of crackers and the whoosh of flower pots from the early risers. My feet took me to Anna University, the roads completely devoid of humans (or dogs).

That particular, solitary, short run is the most memorable one. I felt ready then for the day, the marathon and life. The Jaldi Five doesn't really add enough mileage meat to the week, but its a quick run, and with a 27 minute goal, not a super tough run.... After a long time, today I managed to do exactly this, and, as I am only slowly upping the miles and getting back on track now, was pleasantly surprised to manage the same time.... 

Monday, 26 November 2012

There and back

I had a military maneuver like Thursday, last. I often complain that in time of extreme craziness, life leaves me alone. Some are busy, some traveling, some sick, when I need them. But in the years of accepting the insanity that creeps into my life every so often, I have learnt to (I think) make do with what I have. 

The child is grown up, somewhat. I delegate tasks to her and try not to get frustrated when she goes off into her dream world and forgets. I feel free to call in a favour; request a car; leave clothes behind on the bed. But most of all, I have learnt to not blame the busy, the traveling, the sick, for problems that are clearly mine, and of my own doing. 

I left in a trail of smoke (sort of) to Mysore and we had a good few days there. It felt like I was on borrowed time because of the things that I sort of Had To Be Doing this past weekend, in Chennai. For the marathon, for the course I am teaching, for a meeting we have later this week with collaborators from abroad. 

I am a little out of breath from everything. But I am happy. The child is happy. She hung out with her (second removed maybe third) cousins and really enjoyed herself. Her cut lip healed and looks fine now. Her appetite seems recovered somewhat from last week's levels. We discussed the Gerald Durrell earnestly, to her father's chagrin, and agreed that Larry was even more irritating than Leslie. 

I enjoyed running in my home town. I took the husband on day 2 through my favourite routes. He said that I hardly seem sentimental about the city, when clearly, its a place that one should be over pouring with poetic verse about. Well, I try not to think about it. But when I run there, its sheer bliss. I run through the University grounds, and hit the lake area, and I just feel so content. 

"Do you feel like a few more miles?" he asks me, as we troop back near mum's apartment. "Always" I reply, but we stop nevertheless and enter the tiny, squeaky clean place with cool floors that will always be more home than even my much-loved gigantic new house. We rush around getting ready, and I pin up my sari and close up the suitcase and move on. 

Of course I love the place with all my heart. Its my haven. To be enjoyed rarely and in small doses. Its not where I want to live right now. I want to live here, on my bullet train. And when the nerve synapses get ready to explode I want to get away and stand there in the middle of a run, ignore all the men trying to size me up, and stare at a gnarled old tree spreading its branches over the Geology Department. 

But now I am back. The things That Had To Be Done, haven't gone away. Instead, they have grown horns. I borrow a bit more time to jot down my thoughts. But now I feel ready. Its Monday. Its bound to be manic. But I am ready for it...

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Long Run Long Overdue

I think I am back in business now. I ran my last race on Aug 26th. It was a tough (for me) full marathon. The flyovers, the hills, tough tough tough. Enjoyable for sure, as there were lots of my friends around, my family was there at the finish and all that. I had decided to chill after it.

I chilled way too much! I was traveling for a fair bit after I returned from the Hyderabad race. I went to Bangalore for a day. Then I went to the Netherlands. En route to Amsterdam, I lost my passport in the Dubai airport. It was a horrid 10 hours before the kindly Dubai police tracked it down for me. I spent another hellish 12 hours trying to rest in a lounge chair.

Then I got myself into Germany, Dusseldorf to be precise. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to manage without German in the train stations of what looked like a super industrial Elizabeth, New Jersey type German city. I took 4 trains to reach Maastricht, in The Netherlands.

I did spend an idyllic few days in that place, conferencing with various Chemical Engineering big-wigs and biking around the city in my spare time. I ran a bit, desultorily, but it was cold (for me), and I couldn't figure out the nice routes easily so I ditched that and enjoyed biking instead.

The pain in my feet started soon after I returned and just wouldn't go away. I cut down mileage, started on strength training, iced it, to no avail. The doctor dismissed it as "metatarsalitis" and gave me some anti-inflammatory tabs and lots of free gyaan, which I was loathe to listen to once he told me he "runs on the treadmill everyday"

My husband yelled at me if I even started talking about running. I was miserable but I hung on. I devised a special circuit training routine in this time period that is an amalgam of a boot camp workout I found online, a Runner's World article I read (RW purchased during that awful Dubai airport debacle!), and just whats possible on my terrace.

Last week finally the pain seems to have subsided. I am still reluctant to say its fully gone. I am still doubtful about its cause (suspect running around Dubai airport wearing work shoes for 24 hours straight). But for now, I am back in training for the upcoming Mumbai Marathon on 20th Jan, 2013.

In our training long runs, we start off together - about 4-5 of us. It usually separates into two groups subsequently. I have run most of my recent ones with Ramesh alongside me, at least up to 20k. Its all good for two rounds of our campus, of 10k each. We take a break at the car at 10k & 20k, eat something, drink something, are somewhat together, at least in pairs.

After that we each have to dig deep inside. Its all lonely time. The last 5-10k that we crank out feels the worst and the best. We each have different pain points then. My thoughts are focussed on distance and I give up on the pace at that stage. I try very hard to think about my feet, how they are landing. I try to veer the mind away from my responsibilities for the day - the grading, cooking, house stuff, class preparation....

The last 45 mins - 1 hour of a long run is the hardest thing ever. Once we finish we joke around again. They all make fun of me and make me out to be more of a hero than ever. It doesn't 'go to my head' don't worry as I remember how I was suffering just a few minutes earlier. We make plans for the next session of 'torture' and shake hands and rush back home to our families....

Yes, I am looking forward to that, call me a masochist if you will. I don't have any particular goals for this marathon (#3). I want to make sure my timing chip works this time. I want to crank out some solid 30k long runs this season (weather is good as well so it will be great!). I want to keep up the strength work and focus on core more (I think its responding, slowly, but surely)...

Friday, 16 November 2012

These charts...

A couple years ago we were at the printer store. We always argue about printers. I usually buy some dumb-ass one at work and use it to death printing assignments and stuff like that. A long time ago, I requested permission to use my spare work printer at home and we brought it and used it for a bit in Mumbai. The same one that I had killed to death earlier so it was like really not super useful.

In Chennai we decided to go ahead and make the purchase. The child was with us. She wanted us to get a colour printer. I hate colour printers, seriously. The damn ink and the colour and all that stuff that runs out every so often. I am OK with changing toners (since I seem to do that for a living at work), but the colour printer stuff is just such a pain.

We argued her down and got ourselves a super nice (non-colour) printer. It has been awesome. It can scan stuff as well, which is useful. It can photocopy, that means, which is not un-useful. It can fax, I believe, though we haven't tried that one out. I hate faxes too, while at it. Its been ages since I used a fax machine and I am just fine with that. Horrid krrrrr sound it makes.

Now, every week, the child has to churn out & turn in these 'projects'. After asking her a billion questions I figured out that this means that you take chart paper. Large size. You make a border. Stick some colourful pictures on it. Bung in some writing. A title. Child's name and class. Simple, right?

I print black and white things out and make her colour them in with crayons. The first few, I played around with the contrast and stuff so it looked decent. And in fact after her crayoning, pretty close to a colour print out. Now I am super bored and do whatever. But I am thinking, a colour printer would have been useful!

She is super upset that her chart never gets chosen to be put up on the classroom wall. She blames me. "I told you to buy a colour printer" she says. Oh well. In the meantime, we plod on. I feel bad too sometimes, looking around the classroom and never finding her charts. I would've chosen her Mars chart, for e.g., because it had a pie diagram about atmospheric composition in it...

I guess its okay. Maybe a bit left of the beaten path is okay... Last night we made a chart about Anita Desai. She used the opportunity to quickly read up The Village by the Sea. I want her to change the last line in her chart, which reads 'I am looking forward to reading The Village by the Sea during my summer vacation'.... 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

November once more

I have been feeling vaguely uneasy. Realised it is because I have not been writing enough. I don't usually have very specific things I write on this blog, as its name suggests, its a bunch of musings. Sometimes they are coherent, most times they are just rambly. Still, it serves the important function in my life of keeping my head straight.

My head definitely needs straightening right now as I am going through a phase of having so much to do that I don't know where to start. I have kept a few things constant in this time of change. One is that, except for a few days in between, I have been exercising. I have kept it at low intensity for the most part, concentrated on using weights, and it has been good.

The other constant has been my class. I don't have much choice in this, of course, but it is still good as it gives structure to my days. I feel like time would just get frittered away into an empty whole lot of nothing (meetings, browsing, talking, worrying), if not for it. I am feeling wistful because the end of the semester is upon us and my teaching assignment for anon is going to be done with.

I wouldn't say that life has been bad. It has been a time of realisation and growth, these past few weeks. Conflictingly, I feel a major pang looking at how tiny the child is when she walks into school when I drop her off. Then when I pick her up and we are chatting about her day (the little runt never asks me about MY day, dammit!), I suddenly feel overwhelmed at how adult-like she sounds.

I know the teenage years are not going to be easy. Already, we seem to hit heads against each other often. And there is the element of her father. Increasingly, that which at all costs I was hoping to avoid is happening. We are parent+child pitted against the other parent many a time. I can delude myself into believing that I am the parent in the combo but thats just not true. It depends on the situation.

The house is almost free of the worker crews. But that is frustrating in itself as there are many small things that need to be done before we can fully settle into it and they are dragging their feet on that. This deepavali, we were hoping, would be the end of it all, but sadly, its not to be. Now I am gunning for New Year's. My husband thinks that ridiculously long. We'll see.

The phone is acting wonky now. I am hoping I can push it for a bit longer. My clothes have all turned spontaneously nasty (and they fit me weird too now that I have reduced workout intensity and running mileage). When my mum was here we bought some cloth and the tailor is working on them now, so thats good.

I am done musing, and need to switch windows and work on a few letters that I am writing to various people. And make up an online feedback form for class that I suddenly feel like. Not to mention those drafts of papers to read. You get the drift. I leave you with a photo of friends, me, child, nephew and niece that appeared in The Hindu recently. You can try to figure out who is who, as an exercise. :-)

Friday, 12 October 2012

Changing Goal Posts

Actually this is something my colleague said in a work meeting. We had a blazing telephone call with one of our collaborators. And then we were all super upset. At each other. At him. At life in general. We all said the same thing in different words for a while and in turn kept saying Oh we are saying the same thing in different words and kept arguing. Till the food came.

Its annoying, right? If the goal post is suddenly moved? Or should one work it, make it an advantage? Who knows. After much arguing and eating of food, we concluded that its all for the best. Someone spoke eloquently and very long and we concluded that its fine with us, the goal post can be wherever. It can keep changing. We will rise up to it. As long as someone brings samosas.

Like Calvinball, the fun is not in reaching the goal per-se. Its in having the creativity to make up rules, its in defying those same rules, its in arguing and fighting and calling names, and ultimately, deciding that its fun to do things this way, for us. Calvinball is just fantastic, isn't it?

My personal fitness goal post has moved now. Over the years, it has moved a fair bit, I guess. Being the world's best basketball player (1986-90). Being the world's fastest 100m runner (1989-93). Being a strong basketball player, stable under the board (1995-00). More basketball (2000-03). Being a fit pregnant person (2003-04). Losing flab (2004-10). Running (Forever-Forever).

As far back as I can recall, basketball has been an important component. I like to think that its only because I had a coach who saw some potential in me (us). We were a group who thought ourselves a team. I have never been a spectacular player, of course, but I have gotten the job done, even though I am small. And that has been very encouraging, and I have loved my time on the court.

What boggles the mind is that, if anything, I showed more potential as a runner. Why did I not pursue that with the same passion? I don't know. At any rate, its now not worth thinking about (though I do think about it a lot :-(). I just participated in races when they were there. I ran the sprints at the school level, and an open 'Road Race' that was held by the city admin every year.

And ever since I can remember, I have run to overcome frustrations. In college, I got out and ran to the gate and back, lamenting that it took me only 15-20 mins (now I know that the distance is 3.6 kms exactly, and I wonder, was it 15 or 20 minutes? Big difference, right?). In grad school, I ran laboriously on the treadmill (hateful thing), or, during spring & summer, outside when I could, and I always felt super happy after.

In the past few years I have retired from basketball fully, gone from a 2+ hour half marathoner to a sub-2 Half Marathon-er; scaled to full marathon distance; gone minimalist in my shoes; figured out GPS devices; incorporated core strengthening in my routine; discovered the pleasures of interval workouts; and learnt swimming.

My legs are in great shape. They feel strong. My core and abs are doing much much better than in 2004 (post child birth), though they do feel flabby, and therefore weak, often. My overall fitness doesn't leave much to be desired. However, my feet, have been an entirely different story.

My ankle twists, which had dramatically reduced in frequency, have come back. The noises that emanate from my ankles and feet in general when I walk, are ridiculous. I feel Plantar pain often. My toes look ridiculous. My heels hurt occasionally. Various bits of bone and muscle in my feet trouble me.  And in the recent past, I have had -not severe- but very annoying pain in my right foot. Like someone punctured something in there.

After much deliberation, and much prodding by friends and family, I looked it up on the web. It felt like it might a repetitive stress injury on one of the long bones in the foot. I was going to ice it occasionally and deal with it like that. But I got egged on to meet the doctor, and finally succumbed, because it really felt like this was going to really limit my movements, and I was miserable, and growing fat.

He does diagnose it the same as I did (I give him points for that). He recommends a whole host of things, some of which I can easily do, and things consistent with what I was planning to do anyway to manage this pain. He gave me a few pills. I thought I would resist it, but heck, I jumped on them as soon as I could. So much for knowing my own mind.

So again, the goal post moves. I am going to work on weight training for a bit, and stick to core strengthening and cross-training exercises that don't make me stay on my feet for over long. I am scaling back running mileage significantly - even below my 'maintenance mode' of 30km/week. And see how that goes.

Wait. The goal is what again? To keep on running till the end of time. This month's routine is also aimed at ensuring I can do that. Oh boy. That means the post hasn't changed at all. It has always been there in the same place all my life. Through all the basketball and horsing around with other things, and all those other goals that I have failed at, this has always been there... Heck, thats a revelation for sure! 

Monday, 8 October 2012

Insipid, lets say

I ran a race this weekend. It was not a pleasant experience, lets say. I am still worrying about my feet. There is something messed up about them. Not severely messed up enough to go to a doc about. But definitely troublesome enough to scare me into not doing anything long in the nature of runs.

So this race was not planned. I was hoping I could run the 10k version of it. Despite all the whatsapp traffic of all my friends running halfs and fulls that was very tempting, I resisted. But even the 10k looked dicey. Because of the domestic duties, lets say.

We dropped the child off at the pool. She was surly. She got a yelling as she tried to get into the car wearing her rather large duffel bag on her back, got stuck, knocked her father's mobile from his hand, and it split in two, and well, it was not fun. (Its a nokia, it survived, but barely).

I forgot my amphipod. Thankfully just about remembered the garmin and a hand-towel - two things I had actually forgotten earlier this week when I went on my run! But my mood was bad, lets say. I hate working out less than usual and things are spiraling out of control and I am not able to catch a break.

We reached about 2 minutes after the 10k was flagged off. No one was around to tell us if it was OK to just start running. At any rate our official registration was for the 5k (because I wasn't sure if we would reach in time for the 10k). So I suggested we wait for that flag off.

There were a bunch of kids, like real pint-sizes. And a bunch of what seemed like college kids with a mike. Suffice to say that I was glad when they sent us on our way. I have years of experience avoiding start-line annoyances, and I did have to pull from that experience a lot, lets say.

I wanted to set an aggressive target (for me) for the 5k, as aggressive as my feet would allow. Sub-25, for sure. I felt confident that I could pull off a couple of sub-5 minute kilometers. I felt fine, breathing was good, I was in the 4:30s in the first kilometer. But what a BUMMER!

They screwed up on the mile markers and they sent us back after just 1.4kms! Seriously. I think the water station girl just messed up and drew up our bibs and sent us back. I tried to talk to her and reason with her but it was making me cool down so I said forget it and headed back.

My husband looked pissed as I passed him. He said something about how I turned too early. I had to shrug my shoulders and keep moving. But it messed with me. I don't run short races anymore. I have completely forgotten how that feels. And I sure as hell don't want to do a 3k run on a trail...

I lost my rhythm completely after that. Hung in there and managed to do decent pace and finish in about 14 mins. At least it was under 5 mins/km pace, which was what I was shooting for. I came in third, behind a kid (teenager, I hope, at least, couldn't tell), and a guy wearing checked shorts.

I went in without really intending to run fast, but it was still very frustrating. I then ran a bit more on the trail with my husband, and we were both fighting big time. Thankfully I ran into my friend Rocket on her way back in her HM.

I foisted myself upon her, insisting on pacing her, and it was a glorious few kilometers. I love running with her and the few times we have done so, we have both done really well. She is the awesomest girl and has a super sunny attitude that I love.

My legs ached a bit, I was super sleepy when I came home, and aside from watching Rocket get her PB at 1:55, it was painful. I met all my friends at various points of their races, which was nice but I also felt a bit irritated that I was not running...

And the piece of cake was saved for later. We drove back to the pool, dragged the child out, ate breakfast, showered and were just rushing to the music class. I just stepped out of the house and twisted my ankle. The same damn right leg that has been bothering me all my damn life (it feels like).

Its not too too bad, I elevated immediately, and iced it when we returned home several hours later. But don't blame me for hating everything right now. (At least my sun burn heat rash healed after the cream and anti-histamine the doc lady prescribed me). Ugh.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Mauritian Masala

"Aamavadai" I declared as we bit into the Chilli Cakes at lunch. The chilli paste & tomato chutney that went along with the fried vada things were also heavenly. Food, in general, is not an important agenda item on our holiday planning list. This year, it was even less so. The child is absolutely forbidden from reading while eating now, and no surprise there, this has made her a much better eater than usual, and much fewer arguments related to food occur, therefore.

Stretched out on the endless sand, the Indian Ocean shining like glass, our bellies full, we spent a week in paradise. The day we were to leave from here was super duper busy with all kinds of ridiculous things to do. I was telling the child (to motivate her for the tons of holiday homework she has had to do), that too much relaxing makes me more stressed. But boy, was I wrong!

Relaxing sounds like about the only thing I did the entire week! I do feel re-charged, and was enthusiastic about getting back to office, so I guess it was all good. Very surprising if you consider that I am on reduced running mileage, still feeling pain in my feet, so I did not go nuts and wake up super early to run every single day of our stay there. Still not stressed out about that!

I ran a little bit though, its always super nice to run on the beach or even near it, we went to the gym a couple of times, it was fine, got a lot of stares as we were doing a routine written down on a piece of grubby paper. The guy wanted to help me with the exercise bike settings (warm up) which I thought was super strange. Its not rocket science now, is it? I did swim a little bit as well, and glad to note that I haven't entirely forgotten it. (The child laughed out loud watching me, though).

We spent our time on a part of Mauritius called Flic en Flac, on the western side of the island. We took some trips to the Southern part of the island one day, and to a very popular small island off the eastern coast on another. And one glorious morning, we rented bikes and rode to a nearby bird park. And a safari tour. Bikes! Like my absolute favourite thing to do next to running! All three of us!

We pored over maps and tried very hard to learn a bit of French while we were there. The tourist vans had a desi channel on the whole time and it was so strange and awesome to hear them speak accented Hindi. The hotel people were super nice, as was everyone else as we walked, drove or biked around the island. Seriously felt like we were transported into some parallel world where meanness and nastiness wasn't yet invented.

Thankfully, internet was invented in that world, and though I didn't write my blog, I felt connected with the nasty-world outside and could adjust back into it fairly easily. 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Kodubale Konversations

When I was a child, I couldn't nap in the afternoons, like I just could not do it. In the summer months especially when the entire world would seemingly be asleep, time hung heavy. In recent times, as long as there isn't much noise around, I can nap, but not back then. And it was boring as hell.

After I got a BFF who was as insane as me, it was better. We cycled in the scorching sun with lots of coconut oil rubbed into our hair. And occasionally tortured less insane classmates by insisting on ringing their doorbell at 3 pm. A loud scolding in Telugu would ensue from the corresponding parent and we would giggle and cycle away again.

Sometimes, my ever busy mum would set herself a task for the afternoon. Making kodubales was one such task that happened periodically. Kodubales, in case you don't know, are these heavenly tasting spicy murukku like things. Way better than murukkus, though. Spicier, for one.

I invariably volunteered to help out. Not that she asked me for help, but she couldn't possibly dismiss me outright if I insisted on sitting my ass down in the kitchen. She would be pre-occupied. And I would be, chatty, as usual. Constant chatter, I would keep up.

Mum is super organised (and clean). The whole task of kodubale making could only start once the lunch operations were completely wound up. Meaning every last spoon washed and put away, the left-overs transferred into smaller vessels and moved into the fridge. And the floor cleaned to perfection.

Of course all this stuff made me impatient. I suspect mum did a few extra things just to see if I would somehow fall asleep and leave her in peace to muse and fry kodubales by herself. Though sometimes my aunt or grandmum would come over and they'd be wanting to talk all types of stuff they didn't want me hear so that could have been the reason as well.

Finally the event would start. I would sit on the red floor shaking my leg with impatience. The big plate would be brought down and the first batch of the floor kneaded. I would watch it hungrily (not wanting to eat them though!).

She would try out a couple of them and do some corrections to the consistency or whatever. I didn't care. I would pick up another plate and start. You make a thin cylinder. Then you twirl it, into a spiral shape. You keep the ends thin and a bit pointy and fuse them on. They look disgusting. With flecks of red (from the chillies).

If I did well, she said 'mmm'. If I sucked it up (sometimes you just dont get your cylinders thin enough, sometimes, the damned thing just doesn't twirl properly), she would just re-do them herself, rather heartlessly, I must say. Each batch that goes into the hot oil has to be of the same size.

In between these activities, we would chat. It was years before I got good enough at it. The last time we did this together, mum made the dough, I rolled them all as quickly as she could fry them. Because her fingers don't like her doing this twirling thing any more. But the talking was the best.

I learnt so much about how women's lives work from such activities. I heard all about my aunt and her married family. I collected all the requisite goss on various others. Sometimes they told stories, family legends. And sometimes they just vented about their lives. Sometimes it was advice. What fun!

Yesterday, I was browsing for recipes for Kozhakottais. Some newfound enthu. I like my new kitchen. I cleverly convinced my cook to not come, that I would 'manage'. I was super excited about cooking. I love cooking, especially for my husband who is most un-fussy and loves everything I make.

The child walked around the computer and convinced me that Kodubales are her favourite thing in the world, ever. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that and, in a moment of weakness, agreed to try to make them for her. In addition to various other things for good old Ganesha.

I finished up with lunch. I started processes for the Kozhakottais. I didn't wash dishes. Just put them away in the other sink. I didn't clean up the kitchen over-much. Just wiped down the counter. Hey. I am not my mum, after all.

Our kodubale dough was off. I am guessing that the rice flour wasn't too good. The colour was also a bit dull but that happens, not a big deal. Our shapes were absurd. The cylinders just kept disintegrating. She had a greased plate and I had a greased plate. We were both equally unsuccessful in twirling.

We finally made a few mini-spirals and a few simple circles, and left the rest in cylindrical form. She made a triangle and a tear drop. We had great conversation, of course. Its almost the most important thing about kodubales... Which tasted pretty good despite me violating so many rules.... 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Saturday Morning Running Sessions Again

We did this last year and it Difficult to pull off, but fun. Had one or two 'interactions' that were tough; I was also scaling up mileage as training for Mumbai Marathon and would do crazy things because of that, but overall, it was a great experience.

It started off I think with a discussion Deshvaasi & I had with the Chennai Runners. They asked us how many runners from the campus we expected as participants in the race. I think I said 25. And he said 50. We finally had like 500 registrations! Wooo!

So we decided that we should have a formal set of sessions where we just say a few simple things to race participants. Increase mileage slowly. Do some stretch/strength type things. Don't have to run everyday. Focus on your breath. Don't just up and run the race. Stuff like that.

There were never 500 people at our Saturday morning 'Training Sessions' as we called them, rather egoistically. There were at best 15 people I think. But still, it was great. It felt like an activity that would scale up well. And I know at least a handful of young people who have picked up running as a part of their keep fit routine since then.

I called my trusted friends Basa and ludwig to join me today. So we were the middle-aged folks. Then there were a bunch of young guns. I am scaling DOWN my running mileage currently. Because I want to work exclusively on strength for a bit; plus, my long run is scheduled tomorrow. So this time it worked great for me, personally, in terms of my own training plan.

I think the activity will grow, for sure. I sent the email out late (around 7 pm last night). We haven't tapped into the previous year's email lists as yet. I was really keen to get the thing rolling today and then worry about the tweaks, later.

In many ways its just awesome to see enthusiasm in young people. They find it hard to wake up in the mornings (yes, 6:30 is super late for a run, but even that is early for them!). They also have their share of inhibitions. Seriously. Its difficult to start something new. 'Race' is still a scary word to most; because the concept of it is unclear to them.

I am just glad we were out there today, and hope that this becomes part of the weekend routine henceforth... The race web-page, if you are interested is The Wipro Chennai Marathon (Dec 2nd, 2012).

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Home never felt sweeter...

The staircase is still not done. The basement - I don't even enter it yet. And we might have an infestation of, of all things, crickets. But this place felt so sweet to return to... I think I am aging. You could have knocked me down with a feather even five years ago if you told me I would yearn for home so much.

The Netherlands was just amazing. Lots of things I loved. Most of all, renting a bike (thats a bicycle, folks, a slightly rickety creature in my favourite colour - grey) and riding all over the city, admiring the bike lanes, and the views.

(It was brutal on the ass but an exhilarating feeling on the high bridge!)

My Bangalore trip prior to that was great, I was at a Society of Women Engineers meet. I *might* have gushed a bit about how it was super not to be a gender minority for a change. My presentation was much loved it seems. Tried to run inside ITPL but that sucked.

I have met innumerable awesome people these past ten days. In no specific order, the security guard at ITPL who has promised to do reiki (what that means I don't know!) so I can run better in my next race, and win a prize. The Emirates on-board lady who gave up her veggie meal so I wouldn't starve. The young woman at the Hotel desk who blushed pink when I told her her city was beautiful... And yes, three policemen.

But more about that in a later dedicated post. Since I have been remiss so far in mentioning this, and I recently read that article about how its yawn inducing to hear people talk about their races in excruciating detail, I will be brief.

I ran the Hyderabad Full Marathon a couple weeks ago. In Hyderabad. The course was super tough (for me) with lots of elevation gain - rolling hills and flyovers. I was a little concerned about my poor training (thanks to being sick with that awful chest congestion thing for weeks). But I did okay. Plus the family was there cheering me on which felt great.

I finished in 4:39 and am the fourth woman. Which makes it seem like I missed the 3rd place cash prize by a whisker. NOT! The third place woman, finished almost an HOUR ahead of me. There were only 18 women registered in total so you do all the math. I am cool. It was a tough course and I did my best.

I give a lot of gyaan of late about training and so forth. My training for my first full - the Mumbai marathon in Jan 2012 - was sharp. Sensible, but sharp. No speed work; some tempo, lots of solid mileage, plenty of core and leg strengthening. I did speed work this time but I was not happy with any of the other parts of my training.
(I loved the last 100m stretch inside the stadium; saw child and husband, and sprinted)

And it shows. If not in the timing - which is decent overall - in my recovery. In Jan, 11 days after the full, I ran a PB half marathon. My ankle hurt a bit but I was in great shape otherwise. I am not now. I have also traveled almost continuously since the marathon, but still.

So its back to the drawing board now as I figure out and fix my training regimen. Oh well. I am back now and sitting up in my bed and using my own home wireless and the child is annoying as ever sleeping in orthogonal direction to prescribed. Plus no one is trying to sell me water "mit gas" for Euro 3.95.... I am counting my blessings for sure...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Stop the press!

This Independence Day has been the most different experience one I have had in ages. No flags or anthem singing or feeling slightly teary eyed hearing Vande Mataram (or singing Sare Jahan Se Accha). I didn't even need to find the white salwar kameez.

We were out last night at a friend's place. We were the last to arrive so it was acceptable that we were the last to leave as well (I hope!). I jumped at the chance to drink The British Empire which is this new beer brewed somewhere in Tamilnadu that the Tasmac guys claim is 'imported' !

I had an early morning run with the guys. I showed up a bit asleep, I admit. Every since I had my cycle stolen, I have to run to the start point- this is like 2.5 kms or so from home. I always miscalculate and reach too early or too late. Today I was a minute or two late I think, thankfully they were waiting for me.

We were supposed to sprint/stride up flyovers a few times. I was mentally not in the run at all. My feet have been hurting - nothing new or strange just something I have not attended to properly in recent times. I desultorily did the needful and was glad to have a ride back home.

At home chaos reigned supreme all day. The painters waltzed in and took over our rooms. The bathrooms were being acid-washed (all at once - brilliant organisation eh?). I ran around covering up stuff and trying to find some bathroom in which I could bathe in.

Friday is a test in Sanskrit for the child. In between a work-related set of phone calls (most upsetting and emotionally unsettling and confusing thing; hope its achieved closure now), we studied Sanskrit. So far its just vocabulary and spellings, so it was fun.

I set up a small quiz - conducted by child, participated by parents. One parent was most forceful in grabbing points illegally. The other parent kept focus on the aim of the exercise - viz. - child should get some practice in for her test. You can guess which was who.

This segued well into our evening. The child and I drove away from painters, carpenters, cleaners, cook, leaving the man of the household holding up the fort. A security guard took pity on me & my little i20 and let me squeeze in to a small spot at the Music Academy.

The Landmark Quiz was in full swing and after running into a close friend and his kid, we found seats. Don't know how the next umpteen hours passed, but we all had a fantastic time. I was blown away by some of the questions. So intricately detailed and awesome.

Ludwig (he will occasionally be referred to as The Quizmaster for various) who has been cribbing constantly and being mean to me incessantly, pulled ahead and won the damned thing by a HUGE margin. I was screaming my lungs out every time he picked up the mike and spoke into it (he was invariably right in his answer too). The kids tried to shush me. Well. My other friend who was also on stage pulled through to third place, so much happiness in KennyLand.

The child was so into the whole thing that I couldn't drag her away till it all finished. Even then she wanted to wait for ludwig to step down from the stage so she could congratulate him. After all these years of trying to convince her, I think she finally accepts that his head is that big because of the brains inside that giant skull. He was really brilliant - I mean I know he is, just awesome to see him win the National Landmark Quiz without ifs and buts. Just spectacular.

We returned home to maggi and curd rice (screw you SRK). Yes, having a cook visit home twice daily and asking her to make maggi for a meal is all kinds of wrong. So sue me. 10 pm. If this room could stop stinking of paint, I could sleep now, thinking about how much Navin looks like Mr. Bean.... 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

How much is too much?

I have been biting the students' ears off with this thing called the Sebatier Principle. Which basically asserts that perfection lies in the middle. Y'know. Not too much. Not too little. Just the right amount. Goldilocks would have approved.

The most difficult thing I have been doing lately is being a parent. I have fallen into the depths of a most unbelievable soul-searching exercise, and emerged triumphant from it. Well, not triumphant really, just realised that the truth is the truth and so be it.

How do these super mommies do it? I don't understand. Its not like the child (monstrous as she is), is that awful. She is a bit spaced out, for sure. She is a bit uppity, no doubt. She doesn't seem to like math enough, yes. But seriously, not too bad, overall.

So then the explanation for my complete lack of patience has to be that I suck. Or am too old. Or too stressed out about irrelevant things. Anyway that whole soul searching thing made me want to change things around a bit at the homestead.

Now, I have to be neither too controlling nor too loose on the reins. I have to reprimand a little but not too much. I have to give a little, accommodate her crazinesses a little, but not too much. I have be a bit of a strict disciplinarian but not over much. I have to have her study a little but not so much.

Well, unfortunately, this stuff requires a lot of patience. A lot of good quality sleep. Plenty of plenty of time. These are difficult things to get, currently. Work is super hectic. Race is in like 10 days. I am in a billion committees all day long. I am late on a lot of deadlines already.

At least I have a few minutes to write something. Coherent or not... 

Friday, 10 August 2012


In the spirit of embracing hypocrisy, I have been going around talking to students in the first year (and their parents, at one point) about life on campus, and dealing and coping. Rooms are full of these eager and bright young faces and I am blathering on about this and that to them. Doling out a lot of 'advice' and seriously feeling occasionally worried thinking about the whole practice what you preach ideal.

Yesterday, I was at a boy's hostel. Mandakini, its called, if you must know. It was fun, at least in some ways. I had my head down (negotiating puddles) as I walked through the corridor to the 'common room.' Many conversations seemed to trail off and stop as I passed through, I realised only later that it might have been because of my gender.  Oh well.

I really thought the boys would be a lot more enthusiastic than they were. In a sense it turned out to be a bit anti-climatic for me. We run a chota loop around this hostel every time. In this past season of marathon training, I feel like I have gotten to know every puddle and root and stone that is in the campus. As we traverse Mandakini, we usually joke about the crazy kids inside.

I like crazy kids, seriously, I don't think the crazy kid in me has extinguished either so I connect with that. As a topic to give structure to my blathering, I chose to speak about multi-tasking, Da Vinci (not the code, the original man himself) and, of course the door-stealer Feynman. "Why Feynman, there are many famous scientists, aren't there?" asked one of the kids.

That was a pretty awesome question. For me. Personally, I love to read Feynman stuff because he is a crazy kid. Seriously, till his dying day, he was a crazy kid. To add to that he is a genius with a sense of humour. But despite all that at the core, the reason I like him so much is because (I think) he was honest with himself, about himself. Yes. About his involvement in the making of the bomb, among other things.

Another person I like, for the same reason, is Fritz Haber. Different war, different weapon, but their post-war philosophical musings and (what I can gather, not having met them personally) on man and machine and war and so on, I really get that. (I didn't talk about him at the hostel, though I talk about him all the time in class).

It could be because of my age. I don't think I bothered about such things earlier. Nowadays, I spend plenty of time thinking about myself. And the whole thing about being honest with yourself, being able to deal with your guilt by yourself, that is challenging. Life doesn't wait around for you, does it? It goes on, even as you grapple with whatever it is you are grappling with.

I am at least am glad that I don't have the burden of being a genius to deal with. My small brain can deal with my small life and go forward. I make resolutions, I work hard at sticking to them. It was just last month that that thing that lurks right under the surface, well, it came up and bothered me incessantly. I have fought it and sent it away now, for now.

Perhaps its not so hypocritical after all. To stand in front of young people and tell them I know. I know they will go through moments, at least some of them, when it all looks upside down. I know that despite being smart, the solution will not be obvious. I know that the right thing to do doesn't change, ever. I know because I have been there, heck, I am still there, everyday almost.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


Anyone remember Tatum O'Neal? I remembered the name but had completely forgotten the context. So I was reading the wikipedia entry and thinking, hmm.. actress? How come I know her. And really, I thought there was a tennis connection? Oh yeah! She was married to John McEnroe of course! Of course! It all comes back now.

And Tantum, is apparently some sort of gargle medicine I should be using. I am a bit worried 'cause I have to run a race in a couple of weeks time. Olympics fever (unrelated to the 'flu) makes you all aware and conscious of things that show up in dope tests, things that are OTC medications for sinusitis etc. usually.

Careful reflection will of course inform you that these things are relevant when one is setting national records, at the very least. Not so much for slightly overweight (for a runner) hobbyjoggers who crawl to the finish of a reasonably low key local race. The highlight of which is going to be dinner with friends. And the train ride with the child.

"You haven't seen me in ages" said the doctor. Nothing against her, I have just been very well. I haven't been to her in 1.5 years. In the interim, I met the dentist one time, because I was convinced that my wisdom tooth was infected (it wasn't even. damn. why was it hurting like hell then?).

"Lets load you up with antibiotics and anti-histamine and something called Mucolit (what an attractive name)" she said. I was trying to avoid just that. I have lived with my cold, cough, general sense of doom and despair, and lack of energy for like 15 days now. Why? Because I wanted to avoid anti-biotics.

"Yes, thats fair but we don't want any damage to your lungs" she said. I cannot deny that. I like my lungs. I need them fresh and perky and not black and lesion-y. They are important to me. They are the shrine I worship at. So I sucked it up and filled the prescription.

Two things made me finally succumb and go get this checked out:

  • Overall run-down-ness and crabbiness and consequent tantrummi-ness (McEnroe style!)
  • Difficult uphill (gentle slope) run where my lungs sent a final cry for help and hoped I'd listen
So I listened. And I met the doc. And now I look with dread at the list of scary sounding medicines I need to ingest over the next five days. Oh well. At least, the doctor said that she would like to join our Marina Beach runs sometimes. Hope she does, that will be fun, I am sure! 

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Sad Movies...

Sad movies aways make me cry. No doubt. But a lot of other things make me cry as well. At times I am in a highly strung state and pretty much anything can make me all teary. Not loud crying with gasping for air and a pile of snot or anything but a gentle one that nevertheless requires tissues.

Anything Olympics now. Suffice to say that I am a big fan of the olympics, especially the athletics. In deference to the child's interest, swimming as well. Thanks to (possibly misguided) nationalistic pride, badminton as well. Since I know nothing about archery and boxing, those, not so much. Anyhow all the '10 greatest moments' type news items have really been tear-jerkers in Kenny land.

The Mint Lounge is generally the most popular newspaper in these parts. I diligently read large parts of that paper. Today as I was glancing through their travel section, I saw the words 'Talakkad' and had to stop to go blow my nose. Admittedly I have not been to Talakkad in ages. But I would like to go. Take the child. Tell her the fascinating story of Alamellamma.

We were discussing about different renditions of Indian history. The 'learnt history' the guys said - meaning the stuff we hear in school. I have been seriously remiss of course. Every few months I take out this big folder into which I have shoved photocopied pages of my grandfather's book 'India Through the Ages.' The 'learnt' subject was not interesting, but now, it sounds so amazing, and I can almost hear him (though I have forgotten his voice, to be truthful). I should stop admiring it and do more, its time.

My grandmother (not the corresponding one - the other one) is with mum now. I think of her and I know I could be headed there. If one is objective, the equality sign between her and mum and me is very obvious. All of us are very keen on keeping busy as beavers. My eyes and our hands especially. Reading is common. Paati knits and crochets obsessively. Mum cleans and wipes, equally obsessively. My hearing is already a little faulty. I calculated that she must have been born in 1927. The stories she must have in her head! Who will inherit those?

This is why I like words. I like writing. In the day job there is the big advantage words provide, of documentation, or dissemination of facts, our discoveries, driving stakes into the ground and putting our flag on it. And of a weekend morning, I embrace words again. To express my feelings, to capture for my own future reference, that twinge of sadness. That tug, that is not undesirable in the least... It tells me something.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Fade out

"You recover fast" my cook said to me yesterday. I felt super proud. In typical 80s ish-tyle, I would have pulled my collar up, if I had one. Like one time one of my college friends said I look "muscular" - she was clearly on dope - but I strutted around feeling all proud about that too. This is why you see me try hard to convince you with photographic evidence that I am strong and muscular and all that.

"I like your squishy arms" says the child and quickly bursts my bubble. She is a bit of a show-off and actually has better biceps than me thanks to the swimming (and the fact that I am on a hiatus from all upper body workouts thanks to mysterious shoulder and wrist pains), and doesn't hesitate to rub it in my face often.

Yeah I been sick. Not the mysterious shoulder and wrist pain. Some mysterious overall illness which started with what seemed like an upset stomach (possibly caused by milkmaid. Not a lady who milks cows but the condensed milk I love), which proceeded to a headache, eye burning, back ache, overall body ache and finally, a stuffy nose and itchy throat.

I treated it like I treat these things. "I am dying" I said and divvied up my material possessions among near and dear ones quickly. Blog readers got nothing - so ha. I walked around looking like a pale ghost with an infinitely suffering, martyr-like look on my face. I desultorily popped a couple of crocins. I slept through workouts. I substituted my coffee with tea.

"You look awful" everyone said. Oh yeah. Its a good trick. At the merest hint of illness I start to look distinctly seedy and evoke a lot of pity. So much so that when I went yesterday to perform my duties as a responsible volunteer at the convocation, my colleagues said, "Go home". I hung on with a misguided sense of loyalty or whatever.

After about 3 hours of (possibly unwashed) bodies of a large number of students in (definitely unwashed) convocation robes filed past me, pushed me to the wall, breathed fetid breath in my general direction, I couldn't take it any more. I make my excuses and left before I did something awful like faint. Ugh.

This morning I took the beaten up body out for a "Shake Out" run - a merest 5 k. It has survived. I am not dying. Yet. I hope when I do, that I go out, like a light switched off. No dragging around ghost-like, please. A quick decline and a quicker fade-out. Yes. But thats scheduled for later. For now, I declare myself "recovered, with remnants of a cold."

Monday, 16 July 2012

PB Conditions

I have been bequeathed the title of Drama Queen by my buddies. My innate sense of fairness doesn't allow me to protest this tag too loudly right now. So this is how it happened. There was a race (half marathon) yesterday. I brought the following excuses:
  • My feet are moving slowly and I am breathing heavily if I run fast.
  • My feet are definitely moving slowly, here see my splits in the past month from my garmin stats.
  • My poor baby child hurt her knee and I spent all Saturday evening being afraid and meeting the doc.
  • Although the doc said its fine and the x-ray revealed no cracks I still feel very drained from it all
  • I have had a lot of #fml type days in the near past - mid life crisis, moving, new place woes, carpentry uncles, this sub-list is itself very long
After much discussion we settled on the following bet: Each of us would predict our finish time. The slimy person who came in much earlier or much later than the predicted time, would have to treat everyone else to drinks. I declared rather grandly that I would of course not be that person, as I was going for 9 min miles and planning to finish therefore in 1:57. "Lets see" they said.

I went on to speak a lot after that (at 4:45 am, obviously I am at an advantage over others, like normal people are at 9:30 pm, which is my bed-time). We were at the race venue. My list got beefed up by the fact that at that point, my garmin died an ignoble death. "So how will I pace myself? Plus there are so many turns in this route, I suck at turning" I wailed. "Drama" they said.

My friend Sudha, sponsored my loo trip. My friend the Quizzer grandly gave me his garmin. Lots of people said Hi. Then we were off. Krishna zoomed off and I saw that the pace was in the 7s - too much - and tried to slow myself down. Mani passed me from behind and surely that pace was too high, Mani being the type of running partner who beats passing cars and trucks during his recovery runs. 

Comrade Shahid and I settled into a rhythm. Shahid ran the Comrades, obviously his legs look super strong. Not to mention quietly Galloway Run Walking the Mumbai Marathon (and finishing ahead of me). I just kept my head down and continued trying to slow down. "This is too fast if your goal is 1:57" he said. "Yeah I ought to slow down" I told him. He was going for 2:00 he said, but continued at that 8:30 pace nevertheless. So I stuck to him.

After about 5 miles we started to overtake various folks. I tried to not be a jerk throughout, thanking all the volunteers and police who helped us out with the route. I said "No, thanks" to all offers of water & gatorade. In my long runs now, I avoid all food up to 21km, and usually have a sip or two of electrolyte at best. 

They had oranges though! I love oranges. I smelled them a few meters before I encountered them. I picked one up greedily but soon it slipped out of my hand and I didn't dare to do anything about it. "Obviously I am going to slow down in the next mile" I told myself as I continued. It started raining a bit. I caught up with Krishna and settled into a good pace with him. 

Since the bet was specifically with Krishna, I was wondering what to do, strategy-wise. My legs were telling me to go on, not slow down. Wearing the quizzer's watch and being a bit distracted overall, I was unable to properly predict my finish time, so gave up and just let my legs do whatever they wanted. Suddenly, I was alone again, but managed to eat an orange and drink some gatorade.

And also slow down a bit, finally. Quickly, I found myself overtaken by a lady. Damn! I valiantly tried to keep up with her but couldn't. We were in the last few miles at that point and she was pacing well and evenly. I stuck to her back, though I was at least 0.5 mins behind her. The quizzer strongly encourages keeping the splits even, and I owed it to his watch to get over the slump and get to the pace I had in the first few miles.

The last two miles, I wanted to make sure to push. I usually cannot do this and it frustrates me no end when I slow down after starting well. I forgot about the bet. I still couldn't estimate finish time too well, but was sure that it was going to be well under 2 hours (my usual, sometimes seemingly unattainable, goal). 

Managed to up-shift a gear and finish strong in 1:51. I lost my bet but won a beautiful second place (women) trophy! On yes, it was also a Personal Best by far. The last time I raced a HM, I did it in 1:55. That course was a fair bit short. This one was also short, but by not as much, thankfully. That muscular person all wet and bedraggled in all-black is me, incidentally.

"Drama Queen" they said. I owe drinks to the guys now for sure! It was ideal PB conditions though. Slightly cool. Slight rain. Flat course. Good organisation by the super enthu Dreamrunners group. Lots of familiar, happy faces. Legs smooth from Saturday's gentle treadmill run at Mahabs. Mind determined thanks to thoughts of a husband who sacrificed his 10k race to stay home with the injured child, and the injured child, who always says I am crazy to run but nevertheless feels proud when I do well; carbo-loading with a Woodlands South Indian Thali; this list is also fairly long!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Blank Slate

I have been away too long. I know. It is not necessarily the actual number of days. Its the mental state of being away from something and completely not thinking about it. Of course, as I often say, it all happens for the best. Everything. That means even my little break.

I have been going around saying that I have been living in the dark ages. It sure feels that way. Thinking back to two weeks ago, or three, rather, I would have said that the thing I need foremost in my new place is internet. Screw the rest of the things. I can manage without. But internet, I need, like I need air.

But guess what? I did NOT manage to arrange that little thing till yesterday. Yes. 12 whole days without access to the net. And I did just fine. For the first few days it was really complete denial. Then I requested a quick shot, I mean slot, on the ipad. Which looks beautiful and is real handy when we are going somewhere and are desperate for directions, but totally sucked for me.

I feel like the whole thing has been therapeutic in some way. Like I should now be starting on a brand new thing, a blank slate of some sort. Even though home internet seems far away still, as they are figuring out 'feasibility.' In a fit of desperation, I procured a Reliance-whatchammacallit which explains how I am here. And I am happy. Though I must now run and figure out some business about homework. Fourth standard, after all. 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

New place same old person

It has been a surreal experience, for sure. We are all moved in to our new place. I haven't solved the Internet yet. In my defense it is the first thing I tried to do. But the damned airtel service is so very poor that I got caught in a whole bunch of loops that I couldn't disentangle, and left it at that. The iPad, which my husband has kindly let me borrow, is not the most convenient thing, for anything, really. But it is definitely beautiful, this I admit. And in this moment of my life, when there seems to be this line of things stacked against me, it is a saving grace for me. A chance to get away, albeit virtually. I wish I could muster some enthusiasm to share about our new home. Maybe it will come, in some time. For now, all I am able to do is be practical. And do what I need to do, and hope against hope that the washing machine doesn't flood the place (again). I have set up houses several times before. This is also not the first home we have owned. I have a system, I know the priority items. I of course have my obsessions, some of which are watered down versions of my mothers obsessions. Still, even armed with this knowledge, it has been, and continues to be, trying times here. Not that I care much about people, but I sense that to my acquaintances, the person I am is a false one. Even to my friends. The one I am inside, this person, is hard for anyone to know. Despite the fact that I am an open, frank, honest being who can never play poker. So I bite back my words. I listen. I learn to speak less, to retreat within myself, further. I lie to my mum, I make jokes. I talk in circles, I try hard not to address my feelings, to not acknowledge them,even to myself. When I break, then too I have learnt, to not regret too much, to just move on... For now I sit and watch the washing machine, and hope it doesn't flood (again)...

Monday, 25 June 2012

Notebooks & I

I carry a notebook around. I am also viscerally attached to my laptop of course, and do lots of stuff on it all the time but my favourite thing to do is carry a physical notebook with pages, around. One of my office shelves is filled with my grad school notebooks, still. I used to use the long spiral bound ones with the school logo embossed on it. Lovely, they were.

The stuff inside doesn't make sense any more but I am loathe to throw them out. I am more ready to throw out the several shelves of research article print-outs I have in the office. Yes, this was a time when one had to go to the library, pull out thick volumes, take them down to the photocopy place, fight with the machine, and so forth. Yes, we had heard of .pdfs, but just about.

In recent times I like the several-subject notebooks. I haphazardly allot sections to different things. My own doodlings and thoughts and analysis for new research ideas go in one section. Student's work discussions go in another. The rest have various projects and so forth. I also have a completely dedicated notebook for the course I teach, of course.

The course notebook usually gets filled to the brim and, there are spill overs. I hate when I run out of pages just before the final or something. So I have to take care to allot a book with enough pages, depending on the course. And no, I don't use last year's notebook too much even if I teach the same course (so sue me).

Currently, since there is no teaching, I don't have a course notebook in my hand. My fat research notebook I put away over the weekend, into my bag. I allotted a smaller, handier notebook for current purposes. Which involve the making of lists. And more lists. This time I chose interesting ways to title each list, unlike the last time. "Absolutely critical things I have to do" "Things that the movers are likely to lose" "Precious things" (the last includes a bite-sized bottle of smirnoff, for one).

The last time I moved, it was across the breadth of the country. It was a nightmare to say the very least about it. We had part of our stuff in our flat in Hiranandani. We had most of our stuff in the IIT flat in Powai. The contractor we had hired for fixing up the rental house in Chennai proved to be an ass, and it was unclear if he had finished our work. Dust was bound to abound.

We had a US trip planned some 4 days after arriving in Chennai. Oh yes, I had stuff in my office to be moved as well. And my husband was traveling a lot in those days. It was summer, and I didn't have a class to teach and I had gotten rid of at least all my master's students, but still it was a pain as I also had to do paperwork at work for various things related to my sabbatical leave.

I still have that notebook. Lots of things are ticked off in my really voluminous set of lists of things. I feel good looking at it, but also, scared. The sheer number of things involved is just ridiculous. I have some pet obsessions, which are not easy to deal with. Gas cylinder and washing machine set-up come to mind. Not to mention lines for hanging clothes to dry.

This time the pet obsessions pale in comparison with the larger set of things that are going to hit us in the face. The cement, dust, wood splinters, weirdness of the doors, the fact that the carpenters are probably going to be honorary family members for the near future, the unfinished basement, Oh I don't even want to think further.

Yes, we are moving. Its best that I check out of regular life for a bit and concentrate on that upcoming ordeal, and use my organisational skills to ensure the family is not too pained overall during this time... 

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Lets talk about the weather

When I was a child, I lived with my aunt. Wait. That came out wrong. We were a joint family, so my aunt was there at home. But so were my parents. And my grandfather. And my big sister. And uncle. For the most part, that is. Occasionally, one or the other relative came and lived with us, briefly.

The aunt, though. She was the head of our household. And boy. She ruled with an iron fist. Margaret Thatcher would have been proud. Why? Indira Gandhi would have been proud as well. I am sure, if she could, she would have made us salute her every morning.

I am not sure why we all put up with her shenanigans. But thats how the die used to roll. Even my grandfather, who was often accused of being a bit of a patriarch, would crumble down in front of her beady, disapproving eye. My parents, they had no hope.

Sometimes I feel I inherit from my mum, not just genetically, but also based on watching her as I was growing up, that ability, maybe disability, to just allow others strong wills to wash over. I argue often that its because I truly don't care. But at the core is something else. Something not too nice, thats inside us both. Which was fostered by years of living in that household.

So the aunt, she was of course one of those traditional ladies of that generation. The kind that holds aloft the rules of bygone eras like shields. Dishes were triple washed. Once by the maid, in tap water. Then by my mum, likewise. One final time by the aunt, using well water (which stank though, again a matter that we were not allowed to say much about).

My sister is not like me. In fact, we are chalk and cheese. In adulthood, you would probably say that she is the easy going one. While I am the vociferous one who might get in your face (if I stopped living my life long enough to care). But when we were kids, she was really, all over the aunt. She tolerated very little nonsense and came up with stuff about all the rules of the household that sounded very hilarious if not for the outburst we were sure it would cause.

One for tantrums, this aunt. For the most insane things. I remember many of the big tantrums, the basic stuff like when my young uncle was to be married and something most silly transpired in that context, and one time when a visiting aunt took my sis and me and got our hair chopped off. Not to mention the time my dad refused to take the day off during a solar eclipse. Seriously, the most absurd things.

We had all these rooms in the house one inside the other. The last one being the puja room which was super sacrosanct and you couldn't randomly enter it during your period or if you visited someone's house where there was a death, and I am not sure, if we ate at a hotel or something like that. She would just go off, like crazy.

I am sure that we all did stuff to irritate her, dad being all rebellious and always insisting that science trumps religion and tradition and stuff, and granddad also being a bit like that. And mum working outside the home wasn't helpful. Not to mention my sister who questioned things all the time. [I was a nice girl also very young at that time, but am sure I got on her nerves too. My squeaky voice for one was enough to irritate anyone, I'm sure].

Dad would return home from college and ask, as he took off his shoes "Hows the weather down south?" That was code for how the mood of said aunt (usually lurking deep inside the house in the puja/kitchen area) was. We came up with various. Sunny. Cloudy. Thunderstorms. Stormy etc. and got a good laugh at that. The mood would invariably reflect in the dosas she made for us, so sometimes I would beg my sis to lay off and not irritate her in the morning time...

I suspect I imbibed some of that, however hard I have resisted it - again, I cannot blame my genes as I don't share mine with her... I am continuing to have a stormy sort of mood. Who knows. Maybe its mid-life crisis. I feel that mid-life crisis is unavoidable, you know, like menopause. When you storm, it leaves a wake of sadness too, right? I feel bad for her now. I am sure no one showed her any love during that time. 'Cause we all just remembered the tantrum and not the person hidden inside it. Anyway she is gone now, very long gone, so really, no point worrying about it... 

Friday, 15 June 2012

The Dark Cloud

I am not a moody person. I am irritatingly positive most of the time. Of course I complain about admin and taxes and the condition of the roads and there was a period in my life when I was deeply rooted in a cynicism of some sort, about the state of the world. But I got over it. For the most part, its because I don't care. As long as my routine is not massacred, I am fine, let everything outside go to hell.

But then, there are times when I get really abnormally sad. Dad used to get it too, but then it was related to his being sick, and as he often said, not being able to read because the words swum around, made him feel really really horrid. It comes from the pit of my stomach, a feeling of melancholy, he used to say.

I got an ultrasound one time. No, not the pregnancy ultrasound, a general ultrasound. My hair was falling out in clumps and the doc wanted to rule out anything related to things inside. The ultrasound person asked me why I was getting said U/S. To keep things short, I said, I am a super stressed out person so the doc wants to make sure I haven't messed something up because of it.

The U/S person laughed out loud. Yes, one is allowed to say laughed out loud without saying lol. Yes, I am aware that this is the 21st century. The argument she had was this. If you can SAY so casually that you are a stressed out person, you cannot be SO stressed out. Or something. I was pissed off to say the least, though her argument made sense when I thought about it.

Likewise, if you claim to be depressed, you are not so far gone, I guess? I don't know. I am new to this game. I am overly positive generally so I don't function well in this space. Where every few hours I feel like the weight of the world is upon me and I lack the inspiration to do anything, anything at all. I spent about a week sleeping too much and rather arbitrarily. Then a week getting to office and just sort of staring.

Thankfully, a few things happened this week that made me break out of the rut a bit. For one, I had a bunch of meetings with lots of people in it that I couldn't skip out of. I felt fine sitting there discussing. Then I had a severe deadline yesterday. I hid in my bedroom and cranked out the thing for the deadline. I thought I would feel good that I got that out of the way, but I only just felt tired.

Today I attended to another deadline immediately after school drop-off, that didn't feel great either. I walked (slowly. Walking slowly is important to ensure that you don't die from the fierce noon sun. A lesson I learnt very recently) around the campus finishing up more things and skipped out to lunch. Then in the afternoon it came again. That thing that dad used to claim. Same thing.

My head has been hurting pretty constantly for like three days now. I blame sweaty hair for the most part, but I am not sure. Sweaty hair headaches usually go away in a day or two. And this is a dull ache that seems to come from deep within. Like a dark cloud that is expanding inside me. Oh well.... 

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Women Runners

So, this was another thread in my thoughts in the recent past. I was thinking that its SO OBVIOUS. Instead of investing in Oil of Olay Secret Formula Containing Titanium Dioxide (which, in case you don't know, is what makes white paint so..uhh..white), the thing to do to battle various things that happen to our body and mind due to pregnancies, and child birth, is to RUN.

But then I look around me everyday. And I just don't see enough number of women running. People my age, typically have children that are not so small. I am not thinking crazy amounts of running or races or things that can hurt you. But just a regular 5km 2-3 times a week. The mind and body benefits are immense, and the best part of it - ITS SO EASY TO DO.

I stop for a second to point you to this one I wrote:

Hyderabad Marathon Running Ambassador Thingie

Lets see. What do we need to run? Shorts (I strongly hate pants in general, and would totally live in shorts and wear shorts to work if I wasn't afraid of my mom). Tshirt. Sports bra. Shoes. Socks. Road. Pretty much thats all!

If I put my mind back to the time when my baby was a tiny rat, my main consideration was that the exercising ("me time") shouldn't be an expensive proposition - in terms of time invested, money spent, and general turmoil rest of household is thrown under.

Running met with these criterion superbly! I could start running the minute I stepped out of the elevator. In fact, after I got a little fit, I climbed down my 24 flights of stairs, and that was super interesting and fun (saw all the debris from previous night's parties!), as well. If I was worried about jiggling all over in my fatness, and people laughing at me for it, I managed to not worry about it. Kept my head down.

I have seen my husband get fit. Like visibly fit. With toning and muscles and all. It used to take him 3 weeks. Now it takes a little longer, as he grows old. Me, on the other hand? It used to take long, and it takes EVEN LONGER now. I am sure its to do with how women's bodies are constructed in general. But then all we have to do is just keep at it! One foot in front of another. That simple.

Which is why I am very very surprised to not see more women runners. I just don't get it. I am not the kind to push people into it. But I am tempted to! My own family, my sisters etc., no one runs. I occasionally feel like I must DO something about this. But I am reluctant to, as I said, push people into it. So I write this, and hope you read it and respond and help me understand why we are so few of us out there in the roads...